The Bystander

May 5, 2007 at 9:17 pm Leave a comment

Randolph Stow, 1957. The Bystander tells the fortunes of the descendants of the characters from A Haunted Land, 45 years on. The land is still haunted, the farms are crumbling, the characters barren. The interesting thing about it is that any one of the characters could be the ‘bystander’ of the title. As usual for Stow, everything goes spectacularly wrong. One of the main characters is mentally disabled, which is also a theme of recurrent interest for Stow. Reworked versions of the characters turn up in the much more stylized later novel, Girl Green as Elderflower.

Stow himself has dismissed his early works, no longer wanting to be associated with them. I can see why. While the prose is clear, fluid and more than competent, it does not glitter like graphite, as it does in his later works. They are also more conventionally and hazily structured. I’m glad I’ve read it, and it’s interesting to see the same characters and themes reoccurring, but I’m most looking forward to rereading the later books. When I get to Tourmaline, I’m going to quote for you the most beautiful opening paragraph I’ve ever read.


Entry filed under: Randolph Stow.

A Haunted Land The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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